Franz Kafka’s classic short story The Metamorphosis is about a travelling salesman who wakes one morning to find himself changed into a giant beetle. Unable to communicate with his family, though he can understand them perfectly, the story charts the degradation of his humanity as he loses contact with the world around him.
This adaptation is beautifully rendered by Kuper, the artist currently responsible for illustrating Mad magazine’s popular Spy vs Spy series. In this book, his artwork evokes a retro block printed feel, the monochromatic use of light and shade a metaphor for the darkness of the characters’ feelings about the affair.
All aspects of the original story are faithfully reproduced. The dialogue sticks closely to Kafka’s original (albeit translated) words, while the art style is sympathetic – caricatured enough to suspend any requirement for belief in the transformation while being expressive enough to portray complex emotion.
Kafka’s original became a classic because it’s an honest fiction about how disability can affect a family, especially if it’s sudden and seriously debilitating. By providing us with a visual interpretation, the metaphor is perhaps diluted a little further, reducing the power of our own imaginations to turn Kafka’s bug into our own worst insect nightmare. However, this is a compassionate retelling of a fascinating novella that increases the accessibility and broadens the audience without dumbing down the content.